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Archive for the ‘interventional oncology’ Category


Responses to the #COVID-19 outbreak from Oncologists, Cancer Societies and the NCI: Important information for cancer patients

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

UPDATED 3/20/2020

Among the people who are identified at risk of coronovirus 2019 infection and complications of the virus include cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, who in general, can be immunosuppressed, especially while patients are undergoing their treatment.  This has created anxiety among many cancer patients as well as their care givers and prompted many oncologist professional groups, cancer societies, and cancer centers to formulate some sort of guidelines for both the cancer patients and the oncology professional with respect to limiting the risk of infection to coronavirus (COVID19). 

 

This information will be periodically updated and we are working to get a Live Twitter Feed to bring oncologist and cancer patient advocacy groups together so up to date information can be communicated rapidly.  Please see this page regularly for updates as new information is curated.

IN ADDITION, I will curate a listing of drugs with adverse events of immunosuppression for people who might wonder if the medications they are taking are raising their risk of infections.

Please also see @pharma_BI for updates as well.

Please also see our Coronavirus Portal at https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/coronavirus-portal/

For ease of reading information for patients are BOLDED and in RED

ASCO’s Response to COVID-19

From the Cancer Letter: The following is a guest editorial by American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Richard L. Schilsky MD, FACP, FSCT, FASCO. This story is part of The Cancer Letter’s ongoing coverage of COVID-19’s impact on oncology. A full list of our coverage, as well as the latest meeting cancellations, is available here.

 

The worldwide spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) presents unprecedented challenges to the cancer care delivery system.

Our patients are already dealing with a life-threatening illness and are particularly vulnerable to this viral infection, which can be even more deadly for them. Further, as restrictions in daily movement and social distancing take hold, vulnerable patients may be disconnected from friends, family or other support they need as they manage their cancer.

As providers, we rely on evidence and experience when treating patients but now we face uncertainty. There are limited data to guide us in the specific management of cancer patients confronting COVID-19 and, at present, we have no population-level guidance regarding acceptable or appropriate adjustments of treatment and practice operations that both ensure the best outcome for our patients and protect the safety of our colleagues and staff.

As normal life is dramatically changed, we are all feeling anxious about the extreme economic challenges we face, but these issues are perhaps even more difficult for our patients, many of whom are now facing interruption

As we confront this extraordinary situation, the health and safety of members, staff, and individuals with cancer—in fact, the entire cancer community—is ASCO’s highest priority.

ASCO has been actively monitoring and responding to the pandemic to ensure that accurate information is readily available to clinicians and their patients. Recognizing that this is a rapidly evolving situation and that limited oncology-specific, evidence-based information is available, we are committed to sharing what is known and acknowledging what is unknown so that the most informed decisions can be made.

To help guide oncology professionals as they deal with the impact of coronavirus on both their patients and staff, ASCO has collated questions from its members, posted responses at asco.org and assembled a compendium of additional resources we hope will be helpful as the virus spreads and the disease unfolds. We continue to receive additional questions regarding clinical care and we are updating our FAQs on a regular basis.

We hope this information is helpful even when it merely confirms that there are no certain answers to many questions. Our answers are based on the best available information we identify in the literature, guidance from public health authorities, and input received from oncology and infectious disease experts.

For patients, we have posted a blog by Dr. Merry Jennifer Markham, chair of ASCO’s Cancer Communications Committee. This can be found on Cancer.Net, ASCO’s patient information website, and it provides practical guidance to help patients reduce their risk of exposure, better understand COVID-19 symptoms, and locate additional information.

This blog is available both in English and Spanish. Additional blog posts addressing patient questions will be posted as new questions are received and new information becomes available.

Find below a Tweet from Dr.Markham which includes links to her article on COVID-19 for cancer patients

https://twitter.com/DrMarkham/status/1237797251038220289?s=20

NCCN’s Response to COVID-19 and COVID-19 Resources

JNCCN: How to Manage Cancer Care during COVID-19 Pandemic

Experts from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA)—a Member Institution of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®)—are sharing insights and advice on how to continue providing optimal cancer care during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. SCCA includes the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington, which are located in the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. The peer-reviewed article sharing best practices is available for free online-ahead-of-print via open access at JNCCN.org.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Resources for the Cancer Care Community

NCCN recognizes the rapidly changing medical information relating to COVID-19 in the oncology ecosystem, but understands that a forum for sharing best practices and specific institutional responses may be helpful to others.  Therefore, we are expeditiously providing documents and recommendations developed by NCCN Member Institutions or Guideline Panels as resources for oncology care providers. These resources have not been developed or reviewed by the standard NCCN processes, and are provided for information purposes only. We will post more resources as they become available so check back for additional updates.

Documents

Links

National Cancer Institute Response to COVID-19

More information at https://www.cancer.gov/contact/emergency-preparedness/coronavirus

What people with cancer should know: https://www.cancer.gov/coronavirus

Get the latest public health information from CDC: https://www.coronavirus.gov

Get the latest research information from NIH: https://www.nih.gov/coronavirus

 

Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know

ON THIS PAGE

Both the resources at cancer.gov (NCI) as well as the resources from ASCO are updated as new information is evaluated and more guidelines are formulated by members of the oncologist and cancer care community and are excellent resources for those living with cancer, and also those who either care for cancer patients or their family and relatives.

Related Resources for Patients (please click on links)

 

 

 

Some resources and information for cancer patients from Twitter

Twitter feeds which may be useful sources of discussion and for cancer patients include:

 

@OncLive OncLive.com includes healthcare information for patients and includes videos and newsletters

 

 

@DrMarkham Dr. Markham is Chief of Heme-Onc & gyn med onc @UF | AD Med Affairs @UFHealthCancer and has collected very good information for patients concerning #Covid19 

 

 

@DrMaurieMarkman Dr. Maurie Markman is President of Medicine and Science (Cancer Centers of America, Philadelphia) @CancerCenter #TreatThePerson #Oncology #Genomics #PrecisionMedicine and hosts a great online live Tweet feed discussing current topics in cancer treatment and care for patients called #TreatThePerson Chat

UPDATED 3/20/2020 INFORMATION FROM NCI DESIGNATED CANCER CENTERS FOR PATIENTS/PROVIDERS

The following is a listing with links of NCI Designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and some select designated Cancer Centers* which have information on infectious risk guidance for cancer patients as well as their physicians and caregivers.   There are 51 NCI Comprehensive Cancer Centers and as more cancer centers formulate guidance this list will be updated. 

 

Cancer Center State Link to COVID19 guidance
City of Hope CA Advice for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers
Jonsson Cancer Center at UCLA CA Cancer and COVID19
UCSF Hellen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer CA COVID-19 Links for Patients and Providers
Lee Moffit FL Protecting against Coronavirus 19
University of Kansas Cancer Center* KS COVID19 Info for patients
Barbara & Karmanos Cancer Institute (Wayne State) MI COVID19 Resources
Rogel Cancer Center (Univ of Michigan) MI COVID19 Patient Specific Guidelines
Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center (MO) Coronavirus
Fred & Pamela Buffet CC* NE Resources for Patients and Providers
Rutgers Cancer Institute of NJ NJ What patients should know about COVID19
Memorial Sloan Kettering NY What COVID19 means for cancer patients
Herbert Irving CC (Columbia University) NY Coronavirus Resource Center
MD Anderson Cancer  TX Planning for Patients, Providers
Hunstman Cancer Center UT COVID19 What you need to know
Fred Hutchinson WA COVID19 What patients need to know

 

 

Please also see related information on Coronavirus 2019 and Cancer and Immunotherapy at the following links on the Open Access Online Journal:

Volume Two: Cancer Therapies: Metabolic, Genomics, Interventional, Immunotherapy and Nanotechnology in Therapy Delivery 

at

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/biomed-e-books/series-c-e-books-on-cancer-oncology/volume-two-immunotherapy-in-cancer-radiation-oncology/

AND

Coronavirus Portal

 

 

 

 

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Google AI improves accuracy of reading mammograms, study finds

Google AI improves accuracy of reading mammograms, study finds

Google CFO Ruth Porat has blogged about twice battling breast cancer.

Artificial intelligence was often more accurate than radiologists in detecting breast cancer from mammograms in a study conducted by researchers using Google AI technology.

The study, published in the journal Nature, used mammograms from approximately 90,000 women in which the outcomes were known to train technology from Alphabet Inc’s DeepMind AI unit, now part of Google Health, Yahoo news reported.

The AI system was then used to analyze images from 28,000 other women and often diagnosed early cancers more accurately than the radiologists who originally interpreted the mammograms.

In another test, AI outperformed six radiologists in reading 500 mammograms. However, while the AI system found cancers the humans missed, it also failed to find cancers flagged by all six radiologists, reports The New York Times.

The researchers said the study “paves the way” for further clinical trials.

Writing in NatureEtta D. Pisano, chief research officer at the American College of Radiology and professor in residence at Harvard Medical School, noted, “The real world is more complicated and potentially more diverse than the type of controlled research environment reported in this study.”

Ruth Porat, senior vice president and chief financial officer Alphabet, Inc., wrote in a company blog titled “Breast cancer and tech…a reason for optimism” in October about twice battling the disease herself, and the importance of her company’s application of AI to healthcare innovations.

She said that focus had already led to the development of a deep learning algorithm to help pathologists assess tissue associated with metastatic breast cancer.

“By pinpointing the location of the cancer more accurately, quickly and at a lower cost, care providers might be able to deliver better treatment for more patients,” she wrote.

Google also has created algorithms that help medical professionals diagnose lung cancer, and eye disease in people with diabetes, per the Times.

Porat acknowledged that Google’s research showed the best results occur when medical professionals and technology work together.

Any insights provided by AI must be “paired with human intelligence and placed in the hands of skilled researchers, surgeons, oncologists, radiologists and others,” she said.

Anne Stych is a staff writer for Bizwomen.
Industries:

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New Mutant KRAS Inhibitors Are Showing Promise in Cancer Clinical Trials: Hope For the Once ‘Undruggable’ Target

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

The November 1st issue of Science highlights a series of findings which give cancer researchers some hope in finally winning a thirty year war with the discovery of drugs that target KRAS, one of the most commonly mutated oncogenes  (25% of cancers), and thought to be a major driver of tumorigenesis. Once considered an undruggable target, mainly because of the smooth surface with no obvious pockets to fit a drug in, as well as the plethora of failed attempts to develop such an inhibitor, new findings with recently developed candidates, highlighted in this article and other curated within, are finally giving hope to researchers and oncologists who have been hoping for a clinically successful inhibitor of this once considered elusive target.

 

For a great review on development of G12C KRas inhibitors please see Dr. Hobb’s and Channing Der’s review in Cell Selective Targeting of the KRAS G12C Mutant: Kicking KRAS When It’s Down

Figure 1Mechanism of Action of ARS853 showing that the inhibitors may not need bind to the active conformation of KRAS for efficacy

Abstract: Two recent studies evaluated a small molecule that specifically binds to and inactivates the KRAS G12C mutant. The new findings argue that the perception that mutant KRAS is persistently frozen in its active GTP-bound form may not be accurate.

 

Although the development of the KRASG12C-specific inhibitor, compound 12 (Ostrem et al., 2013), was groundbreaking, subsequent studies found that the potency of compound 12 in cellular assays was limited (Lito et al., 2016, Patricelli et al., 2016). A search for more-effective analogs led to the development of ARS853 (Patricelli et al., 2016), which exhibited a 600-fold increase of its reaction rate in vitro over compound 12 and cellular activities in the low micromolar range.

 

A Summary and more in-depth curation of the Science article is given below:

After decades, progress against an ‘undruggable’ cancer target

Summary

Cancer researchers are making progress toward a goal that has eluded them for more than 30 years: shrinking tumors by shutting off a protein called KRAS that drives growth in many cancer types. A new type of drug aimed at KRAS made tumors disappear in mice and shrank tumors in lung cancer patients, two companies report in papers published this week. It’s not yet clear whether the drugs will extend patients’ lives, but the results are generating a wave of excitement. And one company, Amgen, reports an unexpected bonus: Its drug also appears to stimulate the immune system to attack tumors, suggesting it could be even more powerful if paired with widely available immunotherapy treatments.

Jocelyn Kaiser. After decades, progress against an ‘undruggable’ cancer target. Science  01 Nov 2019: Vol. 366, Issue 6465, pp. 561 DOI: 10.1126/science.366.6465.561

The article highlights the development of three inhibitors: by Wellspring Biosciences, Amgen, and Mirati Therapeutics.

Wellspring BioSciences

 

In 2013, Dr. Kevan Shokat’s lab at UCSF discovered a small molecule that could fit in the groove of the KRAS mutant G12C.  The G12C as well as the G12D is a common mutation found in KRAS in cancers. KRAS p.G12C mutations predominate in NSCLC comprising 11%–16% of lung adenocarcinomas (45%–50% of mutant KRAS is p.G12C) (Campbell et al., 2016; Jordan et al., 2017), as well as 1%–4% of pancreatic and colorectal adenocarcinomas, respectively (Bailey et al., 2016; Giannakis et al., 2016).  This inhibitor was effective in shrinking, in mouse studies conducted by Wellspring Biosciences,  implanted tumors containing this mutant KRAS.

 

See Wellspring’s news releases below:

March, 2016 – Publication – Selective Inhibition of Oncogenic KRAS Output with Small Molecules Targeting the Inactive State

February, 2016 – Publication – Allele-specific inhibitors inactivate mutant KRAS G12C by a trapping mechanism

Amgen

 

Amgen press release on AMG510 Clinical Trial at ASCO 2019

 

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., June 3, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) today announced the first clinical results from a Phase 1 study evaluating investigational AMG 510, the first KRASG12C inhibitor to reach the clinical stage. In the trial, there were no dose-limiting toxicities at tested dose levels. AMG 510 showed anti-tumor activity when administered as a monotherapy in patients with locally-advanced or metastatic KRASG12C mutant solid tumors. These data are being presented during an oral session at the 55th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.

“KRAS has been a target of active exploration in cancer research since it was identified as one of the first oncogenes more than 30 years ago, but it remained undruggable due to a lack of traditional small molecule binding pockets on the protein. AMG 510 seeks to crack the KRAS code by exploiting a previously hidden groove on the protein surface,” said David M. Reese, M.D., executive vice president of Research and Development at Amgen. “By irreversibly binding to cysteine 12 on the mutated KRAS protein, AMG 510 is designed to lock it into an inactive state. With high selectivity for KRASG12C, we believe investigational AMG 510 has high potential as both a monotherapy and in combination with other targeted and immune therapies.”

The Phase 1, first-in-human, open-label multicenter study enrolled 35 patients with various tumor types (14 non-small cell lung cancer [NSCLC], 19 colorectal cancer [CRC] and two other). Eligible patients were heavily pretreated with at least two or more prior lines of treatment, consistent with their tumor type and stage of disease. 

Canon, J., Rex, K., Saiki, A.Y. et al. The clinical KRAS(G12C) inhibitor AMG 510 drives anti-tumour immunity. Nature 575, 217–223 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1694-1

Besides blocking tumor growth, AMG510 appears to stimulate T cells to attack the tumor, thus potentially supplying a two pronged attack to the tumor, inhibiting oncogenic RAS and stimulating anti-tumor immunity.

 

Mirati Therapeutics

 

Mirati’s G12C KRAS inhibitor (MRTX849) is being investigated in a variety of solid malignancies containing the KRAS mutation.

 

For recent publication on results in lung cancer see Patricelli M.P., et al. Cancer Discov. 2016; (Published online January 6, 2016)

For more information on Mirati’s KRAS G12C inhibitor see https://www.mirati.com/pipeline/kras-g12c/

 

KRAS G12C Inhibitor (MRTX849)

Study 849-001 – Phase 1b/2 of single agent MRTX849 for solid tumors with KRAS G12C mutation

Phase 1b/2 clinical trial of single agent MRTX849 in patients with advanced solid tumors that have a KRAS G12C mutation.

See details for this study at clinicaltrials.gov

 

Additional References:

Allele-specific inhibitors inactivate mutant KRAS G12C by a trapping mechanism.

Lito P et al. Science. (2016)

Targeting KRAS Mutant Cancers with a Covalent G12C-Specific Inhibitor.

Janes MR et al. Cell. (2018)

Potent and Selective Covalent Quinazoline Inhibitors of KRAS G12C.

Zeng M et al. Cell Chem Biol. (2017)

Campbell, J.D., Alexandrov, A., Kim, J., Wala, J., Berger, A.H., Pedamallu, C.S., Shukla, S.A., Guo, G., Brooks, A.N., Murray, B.A., et al.; Cancer Genome Atlas Research Network (2016). Distinct patterns of somatic genome alterations in lung adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. Nat. Genet.48, 607–616

Jordan, E.J., Kim, H.R., Arcila, M.E., Barron, D., Chakravarty, D., Gao, J., Chang, M.T., Ni, A., Kundra, R., Jonsson, P., et al. (2017). Prospective comprehensive molecular characterization of lung adenocarcinomas for efficient patient matching to approved and emerging therapies. Cancer Discov. 7, 596–609.

Bailey, P., Chang, D.K., Nones, K., Johns, A.L., Patch, A.M., Gingras, M.C., Miller, D.K., Christ, A.N., Bruxner, T.J., Quinn, M.C., et al.; Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative (2016). Genomic analyses identify molecular subtypes of pancreatic cancer. Nature 531, 47–52.

Giannakis, M., Mu, X.J., Shukla, S.A., Qian, Z.R., Cohen, O., Nishihara, R., Bahl, S., Cao, Y., Amin-Mansour, A., Yamauchi, M., et al. (2016). Genomic correlates of immune-cell infiltrates in colorectal carcinoma. Cell Rep. 15, 857–865.

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An Intelligent DNA Nanorobot to Fight Cancer by Targeting HER2 Expression

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

HER2 is an important prognostic biomarker for 20–30% of breast cancers, which is the most common cancer in women. Overexpression of the HER2 receptor stimulates breast cells to proliferate and differentiate uncontrollably, thereby enhancing the malignancy of breast cancer and resulting in a poor prognosis for affected individuals. Current therapies to suppress the overexpression of HER2 in breast cancer mainly involve treatment with HER2-specific monoclonal antibodies. However, these monoclonal anti-HER2 antibodies have severe side effects in clinical trials, such as diarrhea, abnormal liver function, and drug resistance. Removing HER2 from the plasma membrane or inhibiting the gene expression of HER2 is a promising alternative that could limit the malignancy of HER2-positive cancer cells.

 

DNA origami is an emerging field of DNA-based nanotechnology and intelligent DNA nanorobots show great promise in working as a drug delivery system in healthcare. Different DNA-based nanorobots have been developed as affordable and facile therapeutic drugs. In particular, many studies reported that a tetrahedral framework nucleic acid (tFNA) could serve as a promising DNA nanocarrier for many antitumor drugs, owing to its high biocompatibility and biosecurity. For example, tFNA was reported to effectively deliver paclitaxel or doxorubicin to cancer cells for reversing drug resistance, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) have been modified into tFNA for targeted drug delivery. Moreover, the production and storage of tFNA are not complicated, and they can be quickly degraded in lysosomes by cells. Since both free HApt and tFNA can be diverted into lysosomes, so,  combining the HApt and tFNA as a novel DNA nanorobot (namely, HApt-tFNA) can be an effective strategy to improve its delivery and therapeutic efficacy in treating HER2-positive breast cancer.

 

Researchers reported that a DNA framework-based intelligent DNA nanorobot for selective lysosomal degradation of tumor-specific proteins on cancer cells. An anti-HER2 aptamer (HApt) was site-specifically anchored on a tetrahedral framework nucleic acid (tFNA). This DNA nanorobot (HApt-tFNA) could target HER2-positive breast cancer cells and specifically induce the lysosomal degradation of the membrane protein HER2. An injection of the DNA nanorobot into a mouse model revealed that the presence of tFNA enhanced the stability and prolonged the blood circulation time of HApt, and HApt-tFNA could therefore drive HER2 into lysosomal degradation with a higher efficiency. The formation of the HER2-HApt-tFNA complexes resulted in the HER2-mediated endocytosis and digestion in lysosomes, which effectively reduced the amount of HER2 on the cell surfaces. An increased HER2 digestion through HApt-tFNA further induced cell apoptosis and arrested cell growth. Hence, this novel DNA nanorobot sheds new light on targeted protein degradation for precision breast cancer therapy.

 

It was previously reported that tFNA was degraded by lysosomes and could enhance cell autophagy. Results indicated that free Cy5-HApt and Cy5-HApt-tFNA could enter the lysosomes; thus, tFNA can be regarded as an efficient nanocarrier to transmit HApt into the target organelle. The DNA nanorobot composed of HApt and tFNA showed a higher stability and a more effective performance than free HApt against HER2-positive breast cancer cells. The PI3K/AKT pathway was inhibited when membrane-bound HER2 decreased in SK-BR-3 cells under the action of HApt-tFNA. The research findings suggest that tFNA can enhance the anticancer effects of HApt on SK-BR-3 cells; while HApt-tFNA can bind to HER2 specifically, the compounded HER2-HApt-tFNA complexes can then be transferred and degraded in lysosomes. After these processes, the accumulation of HER2 in the plasma membrane would decrease, which could also influence the downstream PI3K/AKT signaling pathway that is associated with cell growth and death.

 

However, some limitations need to be noted when interpreting the findings: (i) the cytotoxicity of the nanorobot on HER2-positive cancer cells was weak, and the anticancer effects between conventional monoclonal antibodies and HApt-tFNA was not compared; (ii) the differences in delivery efficiency between tFNA and other nanocarriers need to be confirmed; and (iii) the confirmation of anticancer effects of HApt-tFNA on tumors within animals remains challenging. Despite these limitations, the present study provided novel evidence of the biological effects of tFNA when combined with HApt. Although the stability and the anticancer effects of HApt-tFNA may require further improvement before clinical application, this study initiates a promising step toward the development of nanomedicines with novel and intelligent DNA nanorobots for tumor treatment.

 

References:

 

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.nanolett.9b01320

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27939064

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11694782

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27082923

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25365825

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26840503

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29802035

 

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Can Elephants Help Fight Cancer?

Reporter: Gail S. Thornton, M.A.

 

 

This paragraph is excerpted from the American Technion Society Facebook page.

Professor Avi Schroeder and Dr. Josh Schiffman of the The University of Utah are working with elephants at Utah’s Hogle Zoo on a possible new tool to fight against lung, bone, breast, and other cancers. Dr. Schiffman found that p53, a cancer-suppressing protein, is far more prevalent in elephants, which rarely develop cancer. Prof. Schroeder is now working to manufacture the protein in nanoparticles to begin preclinical testing.


This article is excerpted from The Salt Lake Tribune, May 2, 2019.

Earth’s biggest, smallest, oddest life forms are getting new attention from scientists. A Utah author explores what they’re learning.

Published: May 2, 2019

Researchers have long ignored superlative life forms — the biggest, the tiniest, ones that can survive extremes — as outliers, Utah author Matthew D. LaPlante says.

But they’re now realizing the value of studying nature’s “oddballs,” he adds, which are helping scientists discover how to better fight disease and aging, understand the history of life on this planet and how we might reach others.

LaPlante’s new book, “Superlative: The Biology of Extremes” was released this week. On Friday at 7 p.m., the associate professor of journalistic writing at Utah State University will read from “Superlative” and talk about his work at The King’s English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City. The event is free and open to the public.

The co-writer of several books on the intersection of scientific discovery and society, LaPlante now is working with Harvard geneticist David Sinclair on a book about human longevity. “Superlative” from BenBella Books is the first solo book by LaPlante, a former reporter for The Salt Lake Tribune.

As he surveys unusual life around the earth, there are stops in Utah — from Pando, the aspen clone in Sevier County believed to be the single most massive living organism known on Earth, to pop-up appearances by researchers at the University of Utah and elephants at Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City.

Vast sequences of the genetic coding that humans share with elephants still perform similar functions in each species, LaPlante explains. And long after the two diverged, both developed the same genetic solution for the oxygen needs of a larger brain.

So there’s reason to believe that responses elephants have evolved — such as rarely developing cancer — might be spurred in humans.

The potential within a genome for such new traits to develop is at the heart of comparative genomics — and at the work of Utah pediatric oncologist Josh Schiffman.

This excerpt from “Superlative” explains how Schiffman began working with Hogle Zoo’s African elephants — the largest living land mammals — to fight cancer.

It all started in the summer of 2012, when [pediatric oncologist Josh] Schiffman’s beloved dog, Rhody, passed away [due] to histiocytosis, a condition that attacks the cells of skin and connective tissue. “It was the only time my wife has ever seen me cry,” he told me. “Rhody was like our first child.”

Schiffman had heard dogs like his had an elevated risk of cancer, but it wasn’t until after Rhody’s death that he learned just how elevated it was. Bernese mountain dogs who live to the age of ten have a 50 percent risk of dying from cancer.

“Suddenly it dawned on me there was this whole other world, this young field of comparative oncology,” he said, “and I was pulled into the idea of being a pioneer and maybe a leader to help move things along.”

Schiffman had long been intrigued by the fact that size doesn’t appear to correlate to cancer rates — a phenomenon known as “Peto’s Paradox,” named for Oxford University epidemiologist Richard Peto. But when Schiffman took his children on an outing to Utah’s Hogle Zoo — the same place I sometimes go to have lunch with my elephant friend, Zuri — everything came together.

A keeper named Eric Peterson had just finished giving a talk to a crowd of visitors, mentioning in passing that the zoo’s elephants have been trained to allow the veterinary staff to take small samples of blood from a vein behind their ears. As the crowd dispersed, an angular, excited man approached him.

“I’ve got a strange question,” Schiffman said.

“We’ve heard them all,” Peterson replied.

“OK then — how do I get me some of that elephant blood?” Schiffman asked.

Peterson contemplated calling security. Instead, after a bit of explanation from Schiffman, the zookeeper told the inquisitive doctor he’d look into it. Two and a half months later, the zoo’s institutional review board gave its blessing to Schiffman’s request.

Things moved fast after that.

(Steve Griffin | Tribune file photo) Lab specialists Lauren Donovan Cristhian Toruno, Lisa Abegglen and researcher Joshua Schiffman, from left, are testing the effects of elephant gene p53 (EP53) in human cancer cells at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
(Steve Griffin | Tribune file photo) Lab specialists Lauren Donovan Cristhian Toruno, Lisa Abegglen and researcher Joshua Schiffman, from left, are testing the effects of elephant gene p53 (EP53) in human cancer cells at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Cancer develops in part because cells divide. During each division the cells must make a copy of their DNA, and once in a while, for various reasons, those copies include a mistake. The more cells divide, the greater the odds of an error, and the more prone an error is to be duplicated again and again.

And elephant cells? Those things are dividing like crazy. Based on the number of cell divisions elephants need to get from Zuri’s size when we met to the size she is now, in just a few short years, it stands to reason they should get lots of cancer. Yet they almost never do.

“Going from 300 pounds as a calf to more than 10,000 pounds, gaining three-plus pounds a day, they’re growing so quickly, so big and so fast — baby elephants really shouldn’t make it to adulthood,” Schiffman said. “They should have 100 times the cancer. Just by chance alone, elephants should be dropping dead all over the place.” Indeed, he said, they should probably die of cancer before they’re even old enough to reproduce. “They should be extinct!”

Already, comparative oncologists suspected the exceptionally low rate of cancer in elephants had something to do with p53, a gene whose human analog is a known cancer suppressor. Most humans have one copy — two alleles — of the gene. Those with an inherited condition known as Li–Fraumeni syndrome, however, have just one allele — and a nearly 100 percent chance of getting cancer. The logical conclusion is more p53 alleles mean a better chance of staving off cancer. And elephants, it turns out, have twenty of them.

The big find that came from Schiffman’s exploration of the elephant blood he got at the zoo, though, was not just that there were more of these genes in elephants, but that the genes behaved a little bit differently, too.

In humans, the gene’s first approach for suppressing tumor growth is to try to repair faulty cells — the sort that cause cancer. So, at first, Schiffman’s team assumed having more p53 genes meant elephants had bigger repair crews. With the goal of watching those crews in action, the researchers exposed the elephant cells to radiation, causing DNA damage. But they noticed that, instead of trying to fix what was broken, the elephant cells seemed to grow something of a conscience.

To understand this, it’s helpful to think about how you’d respond in a zombie apocalypse. Of course you’d fight long and hard to keep from being infected, right? But if a zombie was about to chomp down on your arm, and there was nothing you could do to stop it, and if you had but one bullet remaining in your gun —and a few moments to consider what you might do to your fellow humans as a part of the legion of the undead — what would you do?

That’s what elephant cells do, too. Under the directive of p53, mutated cells don’t put up a fight. Upon recognizing the inevitability of malignant mutation, they take their own lives in a process known as apoptosis.

And they don’t just do this for one kind of cancer. The p53 gene apparently programs cells to do this in response to all kinds of malignantly mutated cells in elephants—a finding that flies in the face of the conventional assumption that there is no one singular cure for the complex group of disorders we call cancer.

When I first met Schiffman in 2016, he was brimming with excitement about the potential elephants have to help us understand cancer. He was also very cautious not to suggest he was anywhere near a cure, nor that he ever would be.

Just a few years later, though, Schiffman was speaking openly about his intention to rid the world of cancer. And, to that end, what’s happening in his lab is encouraging, to say the least.

He and his team have been injecting cancer cells with a synthetic version of a p53 protein modeled on the DNA he’s drawn from Zuri and other elephants from around the world. Viewed on time-lapse video, the results are unmistakable and amazing.

Breast cancer. Gone.

bone cancer. Gone.

Lung cancer. Gone.

One by one, each type of cancer cell falls victim to zombie-cell hara-kiri, shriveling and then exploding, and leaving nothing behind to mutate. Schiffman is now working with Avi Schroeder, an expert in nanomedical delivery systems at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, to create tiny delivery vehicles to take the synthetic elephant protein into mammalian tumors.

If this was all the benefit we ever derived from studying elephants, it would be plenty.

But it’s not. Not at all.

Source:

https://www.sltrib.com/artsliving/2019/05/02/earths-biggest-smallest/?fbclid=IwAR09iwADrhUKkuoXDRMBHFIMstUESU3OBXxKeN0dTKwxapTUASWsv1T_kZI

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Real Time Coverage @BIOConvention #BIO2019: Keynote: Siddhartha Mukherjee, Oncologist and Pulitzer Author; June 4 9AM Philadelphia PA

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD. @StephenJWillia2

 

Hematologist and oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee was born in New Delhi, India. He holds a BS in biology from Stanford University, a DPhil in immunology from Oxford University (where he was a Rhodes Scholar), and an MD from Harvard Medical School. He completed his internal medicine residency and an oncology fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Murkherjee is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, artist Sarah Sze, and their two daughters. His Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, tells the story of cancer from its first description in an ancient Egyptian scroll to the gleaming laboratories of modern research institutions. A three-part documentary series based on the book, directed by Barak Goodman and executive produced by Ken Burns, debuts on PBS stations March 30 and continues on March 31 and April 1. The film interweaves a sweeping historical narrative with intimate stories about contemporary patients and an investigation into the latest scientific breakthroughs. He has also written the award winning book “The Gene: An Intimate History” and is Founder of Vor Biopharma, who had just published on their CD33 engineered hematopoetic stem cells as an immunooncology therapy VOR33.

Hon. James C. Greenwood- former Congressional representative and Founder CEO of BIO: moderator

Greenwood: Never have the threats from DC to innovation in the biotech field been so great.  Focused on some great recent innovations and successes in gene therapy.  Although the cost high, father of two LMR retinopathy patients said if his sons had to go through a lifetime of constant care it would cost much more than the gene therapy from Spark cost.  Politicians need to realize that medicines that completely cure diseases are worth much more.  They should meet in the middle with respect to developing a new payer model that will not hurt innovation.

Dr. Mukherjee:  He go into oncology from a virology PhD because he liked to understand the human aspect

of disease.  As an oncologist he gets to interact more closely with patients.  The oncology horizon is always changing.  He likened his view of oncology and cancer as a pyramid with prevention the base, then early detection then therapy at top.

We haven’t found preventable human carcinogens, none that is highly proven causal

This will be the next challenge for cancer researchers, to figure out why we can’t identify these preventable carcinogens.

 

 

 

 

Please follow on Twitter using these @ handles and # hashtags

@Handles

@DrSidMukherjee

@pharma_BI

@AVIVA1950

@BIOConvention

# Hashtags

#BIO2019 (official meeting hashtag)

 

Other Articles on this Open Access Journal on Interviews with Scientific Leaders Include:

Medical Scientific Discoveries for the 21st Century & Interviews with Scientific Leaders at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078313281 – electronic Table of Contents

Jennifer Doudna and NPR science correspondent Joe Palca, several interviews

Practicing Oncology: Medscape Editor-in-Chief Eric J. Topol, MD interviews Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD

Eric Topol interviews Al Gore on Genomics and Privacy

Dr. Mercola Interviews Dr. Saul About Beta-Blockers

Volume Two: Medical Scientific Discoveries for the 21st Century & Interviews with Scientific Leaders

 

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Gender of a person can affect the kinds of cancer-causing mutations they develop, according to a genomic analysis spanning nearly 2,000 tumours and 28 types of cancer. The results show striking differences in the cancer-causing mutations found in people who are biologically male versus those who are biologically female — not only in the number of mutations lurking in their tumours, but also in the kinds of mutations found there.

 

Liver tumours from women were more likely to carry mutations caused by a faulty system of DNA mending called mismatch repair, for instance. And men with any type of cancer were more likely to exhibit DNA changes thought to be linked to a process that the body uses to repair DNA with two broken strands. These biases could point researchers to key biological differences in how tumours develop and evolve across sexes.

 

The data add to a growing realization that sex is important in cancer, and not only because of lifestyle differences. Lung and liver cancer, for example, are more common in men than in women — even after researchers control for disparities in smoking or alcohol consumption. The source of that bias, however, has remained unclear.

In 2014, the US National Institutes of Health began encouraging researchers to consider sex differences in preclinical research by, for example, including female animals and cell lines from women in their studies. And some studies have since found sex-linked biases in the frequency of mutations in protein-coding genes in certain cancer types, including some brain cancers and advanced melanoma.

 

But the present study is the most comprehensive study of sex differences in tumour genomes so far. It looks at mutations not only in genes that code for proteins, but also in the vast expanses of DNA that have other functions, such as controlling when genes are turned on or off. The study also compares male and female genomes across many different cancers, which can allow researchers to pick up on additional patterns of DNA mutations, in part by increasing the sample sizes.

 

Researchers analysed full genome sequences gathered by the International Cancer Genome Consortium. They looked at differences in the frequency of 174 mutations known to drive cancer, and found that some of these mutations occurred more frequently in men than in women, and vice versa. When they looked more broadly at the loss or duplication of DNA segments in the genome, they found 4,285 sex-biased genes spread across 15 chromosomes.

 

There were also differences found when some mutations seemed to arise during tumour development, suggesting that some cancers follow different evolutionary paths in men and women. Researchers also looked at particular patterns of DNA changes. Such patterns can, in some cases, reflect the source of the mutation. Tobacco smoke, for example, leaves behind a particular signature in the DNA.

 

Taken together, the results highlight the importance of accounting for sex, not only in clinical trials but also in preclinical studies. This could eventually allow researchers to pin down the sources of many of the differences found in this study. Liver cancer is roughly three times as common in men as in women in some populations, and its incidence is increasing in some countries. A better understanding of its aetiology may turn out to be really important for prevention strategies and treatments.

 

References:

 

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00562-7?utm_source=Nature+Briefing

 

https://www.nature.com/news/policy-nih-to-balance-sex-in-cell-and-animal-studies-1.15195

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26296643

 

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/507939v1

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25985759

 

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